By SHERI GASSAWAY
At 15, Grayce Barkley has been through a lot for her age. In November, the Walnut, MS, teen was involved in an ATV accident, which crushed her left hand. Since then, she’s undergone 18 surgeries to repair the damage.
The last of those surgeries took place at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. For weeks, Grayce watched the construction workers outside the hospital through her window while she recovered.
Then on her last day at the hospital before heading back home, she got a special delivery from one of those workers – a “Supergirl” hardhat signed by more than 45 tradeswomen working on the project and a basket full of gifts.
“This is awesome, and the hardhat is even pink,” Grayce said.
Stacey Bonuso, a 22-year member of IBEW Local 1 and journeywoman electrician at Sachs Electric, visited with Grayce and gave her the gifts from the tradeswomen working at the site, which is part of the BJC Campus Renewal Project.
Bonuso recently attended a quarterly safety meeting for onsite tradespeople where a nurse presented a top 10 list of questions children had for construction workers at the hospital. One little girl had asked about the women in hard hats working on the project.
“I don’t remember what the question was, but it just tugged on my heartstrings,” she said. “I have a 5-year-old and to think of what those kids and their families are going through.”
Bonuso said the little girl’s question also got her thinking about how far women have come in the industry. She said that when she first started in the trades, there were only a handful of women.
“Between the two towers, there are at least 50 tradeswomen working at the hospital,” she said. “It’s the most amount of women that I’ve seen on one job site in 22 years.”
That’s when Bonuso decided she needed to do something. Her idea was to put together a basket for the little girl not only to brighten her day, but to show her all the different opportunities for women in the trades.
She put a call out to the tradeswomen at the site requesting donations of stickers, t-shirts and other union-logoed items. Bonuso ended up with three baskets of items. However, by that time, the little girl who had asked the question was transferred to another hospital that was closer to her home.
So when Bonuso learned that members of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council would be passing out 250 kids’ hardhats to children at the hospital earlier this month, she tagged along with the tradeswomens’ gifts. Two of the baskets were put in playrooms for all of the children to enjoy, and the third basket containing the pink hardhat was given to Grayce.
Lynette Roberson, Grayce’s grandmother, said the Supergirl hardhat was perfect for her granddaughter. “We’ve certainly been through some ‘adventures’ together,” she said laughing.